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  • Writer's pictureE Stegmaier

St. Eustatius Airport Expansion Project: Day 1 (April 21, 2021)

Updated: Apr 25, 2021

*Due to the sensitive nature of our excavation, and out of respect for the individuals we will exhume, I will not be posting images of any human remains.

I awoke to this view from my window. Volcanic ash from the St. Vincent eruption, mixed with Saharan dust is making the air quality a bit rough, but they do make for an interesting landscape!

Due to Covid restrictions on the island, our group must quarantine together for 10 days before being allowed to interact with the locals. We've been given special permission by the governor to work during our quarantine, which is heavily monitored by the island's health inspector. This means we're only allowed to go from the Caribbean Netherlands Science Institute (CNSI) to the field and back.

Our day began with a briefing and a review of our project's research protocol. The briefing detailed what is known about our area based on several test trenches that were excavated last year, as well as some historical information about a plantation that may be related to our site. Additionally, there is evidence of a Pre-Columbian site located next to (and possibly extending under) the cemetery.

At midday we headed for the site which is next to an active runway. We've each been assigned security passes to get through the airport gate. From there we met with the excavator operator, who is AMAZINGLY talented- it takes a lot of skill to use such heavy equipment so meticulously. He began by skimming the topsoil off in 3 meter wide strips, going about 10-15 cm deep with every pass. After each pass, students would scour the ground for any artifacts in that layer, documenting what area they were discovered in.

We found many artifacts in this phase alone including painted ceramic sherds, a possible coin, a pipestem, and several iron nails:

Pipestem fragment

Very quickly after we began excavating, we found our first feature. Then it briefly downpoured... a LOT.

Our first feature, marked by the red and white chain pins

All in all, we found 4 (possibly 5) features that we'll begin to excavate tomorrow. Simultaneously, the excavator will begin the same process of skimming the topsoil in an adjacent area. As is usual for excavations of this nature, there wasn't much for me to draw on-site today because we just got started. Tomorrow, I'll be rendering a beautifully decorated piece of Saladoid ceramic, dating from around the 7th-9th centuries CE. This piece was found in one of the test trenches last year, and it's one that I have been very much looking forward to working on.

By all accounts, it was an excellent first day.

PS. Hun, sell the house, pack up our girl, and come down 'cuz I don't ever want to leave here!

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